SocraticGadfly: 4/7/13 - 4/14/13

April 12, 2013

#ARod — busted at #Biogenesis? What about Lyin Ryan Braun?

That's what  lab employees from the alleged doping center are saying about Alex Rodriguez, according to sources. Supposedly employees from Biogenesis have told Major League Baseball that A-Fraud tried to buy documents from the lab that would implicate him.

First, does this surprise you? In any of several ways?

A-Rod thinks that he can throw enough money at the situation to take care of it. Also, unlike Barry Bonds, apparently, either there or elsewhere, he doesn't have anybody who will go to the mat for him.

That said, it's not just about A-Rod this time:
The two people said that the investigators were told by the ex-employees and others that documents said to be from the clinic had been put up for sale by various people and that Rodriguez had arranged for an intermediary to purchase at least some of them. 

That, in turn, led Major League Baseball to conclude that other players linked to the clinic would also attempt to buy documents to conceal incriminating evidence and accelerated baseball’s efforts to purchase as many documents as it could. 
Sounds like Biogenesis is the proverbial sinking ship with rats fleeing.

That said, why talk to MLB? Because it has no legal powers, unlike the feds, MLB can't get one lab employee to "roll" to save his or her hide, either.

But, Bud's got dinero:
Those ex-employees were paid for the time they spent talking with baseball’s investigators, the two people said, with the payments not believed to have exceeded several thousand dollars. Whether their statements alone are strong enough for baseball officials to proceed with disciplinary action against various players remains to be seen. 
That explains a lot.

But, back to the idea that A-Rod wasn't alone. Melky Cabrera? Bartolo Colon? Relatively small potatoes.

But, either because former Milwaukee Brewers owner, now commissioner, Bud "Bud" Selig wants to prove he's impartial, or else he's just pissed about that chain-of-evidence loophole, if there's even a hint that Ryan Braun tried to do the same with documents, his ass is grass.

The Hebrew Hammer will get hammered. Juices Maccabeus will strike out. Lyin Braun will be tripped up.

But, Bud's going to have to get stronger evidence; Lyin Braun's attorneys will surely rip into paid testimony.

Harry Reid is still no Harry Balls

Don't believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's latest huffing and puffing about "nuclear option" if the Senate GOP keeps "filibustering" judicial nominations of President Obama.

He, at the start of setting chamber rules at the start of this year's Senate, just like Dear Leader with the sequester (Bush Obama tax cuts, "fill in the blank"), had the exact measure of his opposition in front of him. Both he and Dear Leader caved.

It's all kabuki. Throw in a use or two of "respecting the traditions of the Senate," an incantation or two of "world's greatest deliberative body," and nothing's happening.

Well, not quite true.

If you've donated/contributed before, you'll be getting a mailing, or an emailing, soon from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, asking for your support in fighting the filibusterers.

I actually agree with something the Texas Lege did on schools

Changing core educational requirements is generally a good thing, from where I stand.

We don't need to have all students on a college-prep track.

That said, this change is only really good if the Lege restores more money to the state's schools so that we can again offer more vo-tech programs at the high school level. And how about more career counseling assistance is part of that.

Bushie compassionate conservatives and Obama-type neoliberals are both wrong on testing, testing, testing, too.

The recent massive cheating scandal in Atlanta, and new revelations about Obama education reform darling Michelle Rhee and her possible knowledge of cheating in D.C., plus a biggie not too long ago here in Texas, in Houston, point out the other problem of teaching to the test.

When test scores are made part of performance bonuses for teachers and administrators, there's incentive to cheat.

Back to the primary point. Putting all kids on a college track causes college attendance deflation. More and more employers are now demanding college degrees for jobs that don't require it. That, in turn, lets colleges and universities up their tuition rates well above the inflation rate. That's doubly true with the growth of the "university as business" idea.

April 11, 2013

Another alleged liberal sellout on entitlements - Cong Progressives

About 70 percent of the Congressional Progressive Caucus refused to sign a letter pledging to oppose cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Yes, you read that right. Refused to sign.
As of today, after many weeks of progressive lobbying and pleading and petitioning nationwide, 47 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have refused to sign the letter, initiated by Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano, pledging to “vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”
List of refusniks here.

Howqver, just two short months ago, the same CPC sent a letter to Dear Leader proposing to fight Social Security cuts.

So, is Medicare, or Medicaid, the deal-breaker for the 47 pseudoprogressives?

In that case, is this an issue of "old people vote, but poor people don't"?


I'd like to think there's some other reason involved. Sheila Jackson Lee is about as liberal as you can be and still be inside today's Democratic Party, and she's a refusnik. John Lewis is a veteran of all sorts of progressive causes.

Stay tuned.

April 10, 2013

Does #altitude ameliorate #obesity? Color me skeptical

Theoretically, one might think that it would.

The exertion of working in oxygen-lessened air might cause people to burn more calories. Or, the fact that thinner air is less insulating, and it's generally cooler at higher elevations, might cause people to burn more calories to maintain constant body temperature.

That's why, why friend Leo Lincourt posted this link from the Public Library of Science, with the map image at top included, I was intrigued.

And skeptical.

Very skeptical. 

First, there's a lot of Mormons in high-altitude areas of the West. And, per a response on the PLoS page by the author, he admits that, while the study allowed for some demographics, it did NOT allow for religion. Given strong Mormon dietary strictures, including no drinking of alcohol with its "empty" calories, that seems like a pretty serious omission.

As I posted at the PLoS site, the only relatively easy way to determine whether it's likely that Mormonism is at least as causal as altitude or not is to compare obesity in high-altitude areas worldwide versus neighboring flatland areas, i.e., Himalayas vs Asia, Alps vs Europe and Andes vs South America.

I'll be skeptical until I see such research.

Second, the altitude-obesity correlation isn't very strong outside the Rockies.

It looks decent but not fantastic in the Sierras. It appears almost nonexistent in the Cascades.

Third, has this research been "normalized" to allow for larger margins of error in sparsely populated high-elevation counties? I don't know.

Fourth, don't these relatively numerous lower-obesity counties in flatland Florida, flatland New England and New Jersey, and lowland east Texas and coastal California, also undermine any obesity-altitude correlation claims. 

The study author does say that hypoxia is demonstrated as a cause of anorexia and weight loss. He doesn't say how much weight loss it causes. Nor does he say whether this is short-term laboratory-induced hypoxia, or what.

After all, we know that, speaking of the Andes and Himalayas, in the two highest-altitude areas of our world, long term residents, the Inca and Tibetans, actually have their bodies adjust to bind oxygen to hemoglobin more efficiently, or otherwise use oxygen better. Now, in more transient American society, such effects might not "take" for several years. So, obesity as a weight-loss aid might only be of shorter-term benefit.

Jamieson also doesn't say how much less oxygen is needed for the effect. This study mentions an Austrian study that used 1,700 meters, or about 5,500 feet, as a "baseline" altitude for noticeable benefits from hypoxia. In that case, almost all the Mountain States ... just about all of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, most of Montana, much of New Mexico and Arizona, and a fair portion of Idaho ... should have no darker shading than the medium orange, third level of obesity, if there's much strength to the correlation. However, the map shows MASSIVE variations in those states.

Beyond that, failure to control for Mormonism in the US West, in this study, is questionable.

And, that Austrian study was of only 22 people, and for only three weeks.

Update, April 12: There's more reason to disbelieve these claims. Turns out "fat Southerners" are just more honest about their weight than other parts of the country, often. The Northern High Plains states are the biggest weight liars, and the Southeast among the mildest, research shows.

Here's the money quote on a possible "why," too:
"It is hard to know exactly what is going on, but my speculation is that people in the South are telling the truth more," (biostatistician George) Howard said. "Perhaps there is not as much stigma connected to obesity as say someone in California, or in this case, Minnesota."
Sounds plausible, at least. And, that white area in western Colorado? Ski resort heartland. Think rich, white, Volvo-driving, latte-sipping neoliberal narcissists.

April 09, 2013

Would you pay more for a national parks visit?

My short answer, to this High Country News story, is "no."

Here's my slightly longer answer.

I would pay more IF, and a big IF: Team Obama went back to letting us buy just a Parks Pass, rather than the bundled user pass for USFS, BLM, Reclamation, etc. Until then, fuhgeddabouit it, especially with subsidizing USFS and BLM.

Let me add that, so far, I've heard little about Team Obama planning for the NPS centennial, which will happen on his watch. And I'm afraid that too much privatized planning will mean too much corporatized planning.

That said, the "bundled" pass was designed deliberately to hit up people who love national parks with contributing money for Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management sites.

And that's rather than dunn loggers for adequately repairing forest service roads, rangers for marketplace grazing fees, and the oil and gas industry for the costs of drilling on BLM land.

In case you hadn't guessed, it was during the Bush Administration that the "Interagency Pass" was foisted upon us. However, Team Obama's had four years and counting to go back to the old system, and hasn't.

On a second reading, the article's disappointing in other ways. Where's the mention of higher concessionaire fees for the privilege of having a monopoly inside a national park, for example?

Of course, given that author Heather Hansen mentions the National Parks Hospitality Association as among ppl who "want my ideas," I have a bit more reason to "understand" why she didn't mention increased concessionaire fees.

I also totally disagree with the "tip jar" idea, as I have in the past with Texas state parks. It can guilt-trip people of more limited means visiting parks. It can absolve the federal (state) government of responsibility to fund parks more, and to point out their broader benefits.

April 08, 2013

#Stlcards: Why is Descalso still starting at second?

I thought Matt Carpenter was supposed to be the second baseman of the future, or at least experimentally so.

That said, today against the Reds, David Freese back from injury so Carpenter's not playing third, and Daniel Descalso is lodged at second?

It can't be a lefty-righty thing against Mat Latos, as both Carpenter and Descalso are lefty bats.

Does Carpenter really need a day off this early in the year?

Rather, isn't the home opener the perfect time to display your most likely regular lineup, now that Freese is back, and also, to immediately immerse Carpenter in regular season experience-learning as a second sacker?

It's not a huge deal, but it is a puzzler.

Well, we'll see tomorrow, I guess.

Odessa mayor learned bupkis from Perry's rain "response"

Odessa Mayor David Turner apparently learned zip from Tricky Ricky Perry's failed 2011

The Odessa mayor is asking pastors and churches to pray for rain on Sunday, April 14. 

Gov. Helmethair's April 22-24 Days of Prayer for Rain worked so well that Texas clocked its hottest summer ever in the following months, part of the state's worst one-year drought in history.

Meanwhile, the Odessa City Council is doubling down, including a likely First Amendment violation if the Jew-who-looks-Gentile savior is specifically implored in a pray for rain proclamation, per the first link.

What I suggested to Perry at the time, I suggest to the mayor and council. Read you some Old Testament.

Specifically, I suggested he take a page from Elijah's confrontation with the prophets of Baal, only playing their role, not Elijah's:

1 Kings 18:21-38
New International Version (NIV)
21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs[a] of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”

34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

So, there you go, Mayor Turner, and members of the council. Get out the knives and start flaying.

Or read the book of Job. Just as it rains on just and unjust alike, so drought falls on just and unjust alike.

Or read Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.
Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. 
Once again, though, the self-righteous know their scriptures less than those who aren't.

April 07, 2013

Even Center for American Progress is a Social Security sellout

Per a Facebook friend of mine, way back in 2010, CAP was supporting adopting the "chained CPI" as part of "fixing" Social Security. Here's the details (PDF).

And, claiming it was MORE accurate than general consumer CPI.

Go to pages 27-28 and 38, for starters.

I'm going to copy some selected comments below:
The Consumer Price Index for Clerical Workers, which is currently used to calculate changes in Social Security benefits for people who already receive benefits each year, is inconsistent over time because it relies on changes in consumption that may not accurately reflect changes in people’s behavior. ...

We recommend that benefits instead be tied to the chained Consumer Price Index, which is sometimes referred to as the “superlative” Consumer Price Index. This index is a more accurate measure of inflation than the current measure.

The Social Security Administration’s actuaries estimate the difference will amount to an inflation measure that will show inflation that is 0.3 percentage points lower than the currently used inflation measure. The Social Security Administration should use this superlative, or chained, Consumer Price Index for the calculation of cost-of-living adjustments for beneficiaries beginning in December 2010.
When even alleged liberals look neoliberal, we're in trouble.

My related takeaway comes from a book of Noam Chomsky interviews I grokked yesterday at the library in Waco.

Now, more than ever, it's important to stop voting for bad Democratic candidates. In fact, Chomsky said that in cases where a third-party alternative isn't available, it may be important at times to actually vote for the worse candidate.

Update, April 12: Add another sellout — the Congressional Progressive Caucus.